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King of the World
A Traditional Tale From Africa
Long ago in Africa, there was a king who was feared by all his subjects. The king gave harsh punishments to anyone who did not show him the proper respect.
One day, the king went out among his people. A huge crowd gathered around the king, bowing and shouting out praise for him. “It is always so delightful to see how powerful I am,” thought the king. “I treat my people poorly, yet look at how they praise me. Imagine how they would praise me if I were even more powerful!”
This gave the king an idea. He raised his hand to call for silence. Everyone stopped talking. They knew that anyone who spoke after the king had called for silence might be put to death.
“Today, I declare myself King of the World,” the king announced. “All people in the entire world are my servants!”
The people were shocked. How could this man believe that every living person on the planet was his servant? But what happened next shocked the crowd even more.
“That is not true,” said a voice from the crowd. “All people are servants of one another.”
The king could not believe his ears. “Who dares to disagree with me?” he roared. “Let this man step forward.”
An old man dressed in rags and carrying a walking stick came forward. People pushed and shoved to get a look at the man who was foolish enough to disagree with the king. Some people recognized the man. He travelled from village to village, doing odd jobs for people in exchange for a few bites of food.
Fury grew in the king’s eyes as he stared at the old man. Finally, the king spoke. “Do you dare to suggest that I, the King of the World, am also a servant?” he thundered.
“We are all servants of each other,” said the old man humbly.
“Then prove it to me by making me act as your servant,” said the king. “You have until nightfall. If you fail, you will die. If you succeed, you will get a rich reward.”
“I accept the challenge,” said the old man. “Where I come from, we have a custom. When we accept a challenge from someone, we touch the person’s feet. Hold my walking stick so I can honour you by touching your feet.”
The king took the walking stick, and the old man knelt to touch the king’s feet.
“Now give back my walking stick, so I can use it to stand up,” said the old man. The king handed back the walking stick.
“I have given you the proof you asked for,” said the old man.
The king was confused. “What proof?” he asked.
“A servant does as he is told,” said the old man. “I told you to hold my walking stick, and you did. I told you to give back my walking stick, and you did. You have acted as my servant.”
“You are both wise and very brave,” said the king, who was impressed. “I will employ you as an advisor, and you will be well paid for your services.”
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1. Why would the king’s subjects praise him if he treated them poorly?CorrectIncorrect
2. Why did the king declare himself King of the World?CorrectIncorrect
3. Why would the king decide to employ the old man as an advisor, rather than just giving him money as a reward?
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4. The king could not believe the old man was foolish enough to disagree with him.CorrectIncorrect
5. The old man showed he was wise by giving the King his walking stick.CorrectIncorrect